Attorney General Bonta Joins Multistate Coalition in Support of U.S. EPA’s Revisions to its Safer Choice Standard Program

Tuesday, January 16, 2024
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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, alongside a coalition of 12 attorneys general, submitted a comment letter supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed revisions to the Safer Choice Standard program. The proposed revisions will strengthen requirements that products and their ingredients must meet to use EPA’s Safer Choice Label or Design for the Environment (DfE) logo. In the comment letter, the attorneys general commend the proposed revisions and urge the EPA to exclude products with plastic primary packaging from using the label and logo. However, the comment letter recommends that if the EPA instead finalizes its proposal to allow plastic packaging with a minimum percentage of recycled content, that EPA exclude packaging with recycled content obtained from a highly polluting and inefficient process known as “chemical recycling.”

“From our waterways to the air that we breathe, plastics are seeping into everyday lives, harming our bodies and our environment,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Today, my fellow attorneys general and I commend the EPA’s proposed revisions to the Safer Choice Standard and urge EPA to strengthen the program’s plastic packaging requirements. At the California Department of Justice, we remain committed to tackling the global plastic pollution crisis and supporting more sustainable solutions for our communities and our planet.”

EPA’s Safer Choice Standard program seeks to identify products and packaging that are safer for human health and the environment. Most notably in the program’s proposed revisions, which were announced on November 13, 2023, primary packaging made of plastic must contain at least 15% post-consumer recycled content for products to be Safer Choice certified. However, the updated revisions are unclear as to whether companies can meet the plastic recycled content requirement through chemical recycling, which would undermine the value of the Safer Choice standard.

Plastic is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, persists in the environment for centuries, and is hazardous to public health. The substance contains harmful chemicals and impurities, and does not fully degrade, instead breaking down into smaller pieces called microplastics. Microplastics have been found in drinking water, food, and even the air people breathe.  

“Chemical recycling” — also known as “advanced recycling” — refers to the heat or solvent-based processes that, according to the plastics industry, allows “more types of used plastics…to be recaptured and remanufactured into new plastics and products.” In reality, 86 to 99 % of the plastic waste used in the advanced recycling process is typically destroyed, and plastic waste itself can contain many harmful impurities, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). 

In their comment letter, the attorneys general:

  • Support EPA's proposed revisions to its Safer Choice Standard.
  • Recommend that EPA not allow products with plastic primary packaging to use the Safer Choice label or DfE logo.
  • Recommend that if EPA does allow products with plastic primary packaging to use the label and logo, that EPA prohibit the use of chemical recycling in meeting the proposed standard's plastic packaging recycled content requirements.
  • Call on the EPA to exclude any products or packaging that contain any PFAS, whether intentionally introduced or not.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to addressing the plastic pollution crisis. On April 28, 2022, he announced an investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their role in causing and exacerbating the global plastics pollution crisis. On November 2, 2022, he sent letters to plastic bags manufacturers demanding that they substantiate their claims that the bags are recyclable. On April 25, 2023, he led a coalition of 16 states in urging the Federal Trade Commission to update its Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims to exclude chemical recycling from the definition of recycling. On August 1, 2023, he announced leading a coalition of 14 states in urging the Biden Administration to adopt a more comprehensive strategy to combat the plastic pollution crisis.

In submitting the comment letter, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, the District of Columbia, and the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York. 

A copy of the comment letter is available here.

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